On Christianity and Creativity: Part 1
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
For my first blog series I want to share with you my hopes for this platform.
I would like this platform to be a place where people of all backgrounds can talk thoughtfully about the purpose and meaning of art and the stories we love. To begin this journey I thought it would be good to share my own personal aesthetic, or “theory of beauty.”
So let’s dive in together as we continue this conversation about beauty and creativity!
A few weeks ago we wrestled with the questions: what is art and what makes for good art? I ended this conversation by posing the question: what makes art Christian? Do you just have to throw a few Bible characters into the mix? Must there be a perfectly packaged Hallmark message apparent in the things we create? I hope not! How boring would it be if everything Christians made reminded audiences of the Hallmark channel? But seriously, is there anything that the Christian artist and consumer of art should aim for in the realm of beauty and creativity? Does the Christian bring anything unique to the making of art? I believe the answer is yes on both counts.
I would venture to define a Christian aesthetic as threefold.
First, the Christian artist has a responsibility to bring the gospel to bear on his or her work, creating things that are quality and that connect to the intended audience in a way that begins a conversation that fosters transformation. Secondly, the Christian consumer of art is to both enjoy art for the sake of its creativity and to interpret it “in light of the gospel.” Thirdly, the Christian is to use whatever creativity he or she has been given by “our creator God” to bring beauty into this dark and broken world.
This is quite a mouthful I know! We can’t cover every aspect of this aesthetic in just one blog post, but let’s dive into the first point and explore it a little further!
Artists in the room raise your hands please (don’t actually do that, that’s weird). If our art is to in anyway echo the beauty of our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, then we must keep the gospel in view. By this, I don’t mean that we should hit our audiences over the head with the gospel! Sometimes subtly is the best policy. I heard some good advice along these lines from Demetrius Rogers. Rogers talked about Christianity and creativity, saying that Christian art should “tell the truth slant,” indirectly pointing to the beauty of the gospel so that the truth will “dazzle gradually.” I think this principle is what is so often missed by many Christian movies. Often they can get so “preachy” that the message falls flat and the characters become one-dimensional. But, if we aren’t supposed to beat our audience over the head with our message how do we keep the gospel in view as we work? How do we “tell the truth slant?” I’m so glad you asked!
I think keeping the gospel in view in our work begins by creating “in harmony with our creator God,” encompassing “the whole of man’s experience, its depravity and triumph both.” The gospel lays two truths before us: the world is not as it should be because we messed up and God loves us anyways! These truths are in reach of everyone, even the non-Christian. Everyone have a sense that the world is not as it should be and everyone has a longing for a love that overcomes all offenses. The gospel answers this innate fear and this deep longing. The Christian artist has a special privilege in connecting to this primal story, this One True Story upon which all other stories are mere echoes.
So, Christian artists: tell the gospel with your work, even if only in subtly ways.
That’s the first principle for Christian artists, but there’s more. As those made in the image of the One who makes beautiful things, Christian artists have a responsibility to do good work, creating something that is truly beautiful and that connects with the intended audience. Many think that beauty is subjective, but I believe there is objectivity involved, for beauty is grounded in the source of all beauty: the Beautiful One Himself. So, Christians should produce the best art because what we create can “most closely reflect the beauty of God.” As Christians we should “get good” at our crafts and create quality works of art. The more quality in ones art does not necessarily mean the gospel will be better portrayed, but it certainly can help ones art better point to the most beautiful thing ever: our redemption in the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Remember from my last blog post that good art is a conversation, a collaborative work that invites an audience into the artist’s work. Let’s be artists who invite others into something beautiful, beautiful not only because it is quality work, but also because it reflects the unending grace of God in Christ.
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the relation between Christianity and creativity. I would love to hear your own thoughts. Be sure to comment below or message me. You can also download my free e-book, Echoes of Beauty: A Study In Christian Aesthetics, which dives deeper into all these matters.
Be sure to come back in a few weeks when we will diver deeper into what it means to be Christian consumers of art.
 Barry Hartly, Slater. “Aesthetics .” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Mike, Cosper. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth. 23.  Bret, Lott. Letters & Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian. 84  Francis A., Schaeffer. Art & the Bible: Two Essays. Revised ed. 75.  Ibid., 51.  Mike, Cosper. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth. 214.  Bret, Lott. Letters & Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian. 42.  Francis A., Schaeffer. Art & the Bible: Two Essays. Revised ed. 51.  Ibid., 94.  Rogers, Demetrius. "Images: Resurrected Art." Canvas Conference.  Ibid.  Rogers, Demetrius. "Images: Resurrected Art." Canvas Conference.  Bret, Lott. Letters & Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian. 42.  Ibid.  Timothy, Keller. King's Cross: the Story of the World in the Life of Jesus. 228.  Bret, Lott. Letters & Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian. 84.  Francis A., Schaeffer. Art & the Bible: Two Essays. Revised ed. 75.  Brett, Kunkle. "Practical Design: Art as Apologetic." Canvas Conference.  Shai, Linne "Images: The God Who Creates.” Canvas Conference.  Thomas, Terry. "A Call for Creative Orthodoxy/Orthodox Creativity." Canvas Conference.  Brett, Kunkle. "Practical Design: Art as Apologetic." Canvas Conference.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Thomas, Terry. "A Call for Creative Orthodoxy/Orthodox Creativity." Canvas Conference.  Aaron, Ivey. "Images: God, the Artist." Canvas Conference.  Robert E., Webber. Ancient-future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God's Narrative. 43.